As NFL betting has grown, so has the tout business. A tout is someone who gets paid to help a bettor make money betting the NFL. Some are legitimate handicappers. An overwhelming majority are not.

The first way to protect yourself from one who is not is to rule out anyone who claims to win 75 or 80 percent against the point spread. Just remember this: Anyone who reasonably expected to win 80 of his next 100 bets could turn $1,000 into $15 billion by proper proportional betting—all in one season!

A realistic long-term win percentage for a skilled handicapper will be in the 55–60 percent range. I know of no service that has done better than about 60 percent over a number of seasons. And those that consistently reach 60 percent are very few.

Another warning sign of a rip-off tout is multiple services within one service. Touts create multiple services so that they can always truthfully claim to have won. For example, a tout may operate an early-week newsletter giving selections on each game along with a weekend phone service giving selections based on the “latest inside information.” Then the tout will switch sides on a game because of “new” information. This way, the tout can always truthfully advertise that his service, meaning one of his services, had the winner of the game.

Other sports services give out selections on 900 numbers with a charge-per-call. They pad the bill by offering just one selection and telling you to call back in ten minutes for another pick—and another charge.

Other services advertise “lock games,” meaning games that can’t lose. How they can sell such games is beyond me. Anyone who has watched sports for about a month realizes that the difference between winning and losing against the spread can be infinitesimally small. In the NFL, a game will often be turned by a single play or penalty call. The best anyone can do in handicapping is come up with a side that has a slightly better than 60 percent chance of covering the spread. This still means that almost four times in ten the game will lose—which makes any talk of a lock complete nonsense.

Some of the more laughable tout ads are those that are printed a month or more ahead of time. These are often found in NFL betting schedules. The ads will claim that this service had winners in games that couldn’t have been played when the ads were written!

In summary, the only touts you should consider using are those who talk about the long haul and realistic win percentages.

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